Graffiti artist RISK — born Kelly Graval — is a pioneer of street art in Los Angeles. One of the first writers in Southern California in the 1980s, he imported New York’s wildstyle to the west coast and gained notoriety by combining the look with his own slick, colorful palette, which in turn was influenced by Southern California car, surf and skate culture.
RISK has since become a legend, selling works in galleries across the world. Last year, he opened Buckshot Gallery in Santa Monica, where graffiti artists can display their work without the pressure of sales often felt at traditional galleries (Buckshot is supported by RISK’s online shop).
On May 14, Buckshot will open Unconventional Forces, a new exhibition featuring collaborative works by RISK and artist/printmaker TAZ.
If you want to get some amazing Instagram shots of his work that’s up on walls throughout L.A., check out his murals up at:
Meanwhile, RISK talked to us about L.A. street art, custom car culture, and where graffiti is headed.
What made you decide to turn Buckshot into a gallery?
It was a no-brainer for me. We needed a spot for our online business, buckshotprints.com, and I was like, ‘This would be a great little gallery.’ A lot of my friends deal with a lot of politics – not politics, but you know, galleries want to show what galleries can sell. So I wanted them to be able to show where they didn’t have to worry about making a profit. It was part of our plan – a place for my friends and peers to go to show stuff that they wouldn’t show at other galleries.
Have you found that their work sells anyway?
Yeah, that’s the funny thing — we’ve had tremendous success so far.
How did you link up with TAZ for this show?
I’ve know TAZ and his work for years. I had a clothing line 20 years ago, one of the first streetwear brands. TAZ made a poster for one of our parties and I’ve been a fan ever since. We’ve been hanging out and we were vibing and it led to, let’s do a show together.
Is there a shared philosophy that you both brought to the show?
We kind of get to the same place wth art, but we approach it very differently. I’m very spontaneous and freestyle, he’s very planned out and organized. It’s a very unique experience — we know where we want to wind up, but we start at opposite ends of the spectrum. What we did for this show is, we took his fine-tuned illustrations and graphics and I made stencils of them and used transparent car kandy paint and painted them on top, so you can kind of see it through that.
What other materials did you use?
He’s a surfer, and I used to be a surfer, and we both come from the SoCal custom car surf culture. So there was a lot of metal flake, kandies, pearls, car lacquer; there was diamond dust inside crushed abalone; a lot of custom car and surf culture. It comes from that whole Cool School, Ed Moses — that whole movement.
You’ve been influenced by L.A. throughout your career — has that influence changed over the years?
There was no graffiti art when I started in L.A. All I had was New York [to look to]. As I got into fine art, I was very influenced by the old L.A. Ferus Gallery, those guys. I was just into surfing and cars and this stuff already, and art.
I read an interview with you from a few years ago, where you said that street artists don’t necessarily have to do illegal graffiti anymore because of social media. Do you see that trend continuing, or is there still some street cred to be gained from writing illegally?
I don’t think that graffiti has to be illegal, but my point there was that the guys that are doing it now, some of the most famous guys – the game is elevated to such a level because of social media. You can post it and see it immediately, from around the world, and see a ton of crazy art. When we were doing it, we were pen pals. It took months to see pieces that we did overseas.
I think that the only thing we are losing is a heritage, because there’s not a lot of illegal graffiti happening anymore. That’s sad to lose anything, but I think it’s mostly important for kids to know the history. It’s like the craftsmanship of anything – the old craftsmanship was more detailed and painstaking.
Do you see the tradition of street art in L.A., particularly the style made popular by you and guys like Estevan Oriol and Cartoon, staying the same or morphing into something else?
I think it’s morphing into something else, which I think is great. That’s something that will be part of L.A. always – Estevan, Cartoon and myself, we all grew up together. But as we get more established galleries in L.A….New York was always the art scene, but I think we are finally getting noticed and I think it will be a huge, important part of L.A.
Anything else for people to know about the show opening this weekend?
Just come and have a good time.
Unconventional Forces will run from May 14 – June 4 at Buckshot Gallery, 3129 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica